Ethiopia-Japan Relation

Historical Background

Ethiopia and Japan, nations with ancient history and civilization, have long relations dating back to 1930 where the two countries signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce. This was followed by a visit of Ethiopian Foreign Minister Heruy WeldeSellase in 1931 to Japan to create economic cooperation. The establishment of an honorary consulate-general in Osaka in 1933 and the establishment of legation in Ethiopia in 1936 were milestones of the earlier years. Emperor Haile Selassie was strongly attracted to the harmony that Japan achieved in conjoining modernity and traditional culture, even including in the Ethiopian School curriculum a book in Amharic entitled "How Japan was Civilized."  Later, both countries established Embassies in each capital in 1958. Another milestone was the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games was Africa's first Olympic Gold Medalist, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, won the marathon for the second time. 

Then, relations between the two countries have been regularly strengthened by various visits made by high government officials. These have included the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan, H.E. Mr. Junichiro Koizumi, to Ethiopia in 2006, and of late Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Meles Zenwi to Japan on several occasions. Japan Parliamentary League, as well as the Japan-Ethiopia association, serves as a bridge to enhance people-to-people relations. Ethiopian MPs have also created an Ethiopian-Japanese association of members of parliament.  

Such good relations are strengthened by VIP visits: in 2013 by Prime Minister H.E.  Mr. Hailemariam Dessalegn to Japan; and in 2014 by Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe to Ethiopia; in 2017 by Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Demeke Mekonen to Japan; and in 2017 by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Mr. Taro Kono. The current Prime Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Dr. Abiy Ahmed, also visited Japan in August 2019  to participate on the TICAD7 forum held in Japan Yokahama City. During this visit H.E, Dr. Abiy met with the Japanese Prime Minister and both leaders discussed their desire to further strengthen the existing relations and further, enhance the bilateral relations to the next mutually beneficial and heightened level.

The recently started direct flight by Ethiopian Airlines to Japan, as the only African Flag Carrier that is flying to Japan, is a result of the agreements made by the Governments of the two countries. The flight is believed to widen opportunities for people to people relations and become a catalyst for the increased number of visitors from Japan to Ethiopia.

A. Democracy and Human Rights

Japan is recognized as the most successful case of democratic state-building that the world has ever seen. From the rubble of World War II, the Japanese built a constitutional system that is stable, guarantees a wide spectrum of human rights, and is seen as legitimate by virtually all members of society. Thus,  Japan is an important partner for Ethiopia in democratic system building.

B.  Technological innovations

The fact that key elements underlying Japan's industrial and the technological rise have remained remarkably consistent over time prompts us to learn its technological innovations. Some of the milestones including; (1) central government policies that encourage the adoption and diffusion of foreign technologies through lowering private-sector risks, stimulating demand, and providing educational and other infrastructure; (2) a diffuse base of entrepreneurial vitality and a strong competitive private-sector that is receptive to new technologies and capable of improving them; and (3) a political and ideological climate that generally allows for consensus on national imperatives and flexibility in policy approaches to meeting them. These points are of immense interest to Ethiopia as the country is seeking to build industrial and technological strength by utilizing the successful approaches to Japan.

C. Development cooperation

Japan has been providing development assistance as well as humanitarian aids to Ethiopia to support our nation-building efforts. Japan's development support in the form of grants and technical cooperation has been demonstrated in agriculture, water resources, health, education and infrastructure. Through  the Japanese government aid implementing body (JICA), different kinds of capacity building and technical cooperation activities aimed at transferring technology and knowledge, in accordance with Ethiopia's Growth and Transformation Plan, have been undertaken in Ethiopia. Japanese support has been invaluable in the construction of primary schools, the development of water facilities and the road network, in increasing agricultural productivity, much involving the active participation of local communities. These are bringing significant changes at the grass root levels and shall further be beeped up.

The concessional loan of 50 million USD offered by Government of Japan to Ethiopia in 2017, after 43 years, for women entrepreneurship projects; the ODA support of 50 million USD for construction of secondary schools, water and sanitation, and small geothermal project in Ethiopia; and the recent move to consider Jimma-Chida trunk road project with AfDB and related projects are development assistances worth mentioning. In addition, Ethiopia is beneficiary of the African Business Education Initiative For Youth (commonly referred to as ABE-Initiative) which was launched in 2014 by the Government of Japan with the aim to educate African Youth in business programs in Japan. Since the start of the program, 69 Ethiopian students have participated and many more are expected to be trained in the future. These opportunities coupled with the unique Kaizen principles will bring the opportunity to apply quality, productivity and competitive techniques to our businesses and industry, which will, in turn, contribute to the rapidly growing economy. 

 B.  Trade and Investment

Ethiopia and Japan have long years of trade and investment cooperation. Ethiopia exports agricultural products, the major share of which is coffee, while importing technological products mainly cars, machinery and electronic goods from Japan. Apart from coffee, Rose flowers and Leather are newcomer products from Ethiopia to Japan market with high demands. However, trade volumes with Japan have not been persistent and fluctuated from year to year.  According to the 2017 trade data from Ethiopia Revenue and Customs Authority, export from Ethiopia to Japan is about 70,200,748.78 USD and import from Japan to Ethiopia is 442,859,539.54 million USD, showing trade deficit of about 372,658,790.76 million USD against Ethiopia. The trade balance is in favor of the Japanese sideThe opening of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) overseas office in Addis Ababa in 2016, with a mission to invite Japanese investors to Ethiopia, is believed to herald a new chapter in the economic relations between the two countries and will bolster bilateral trade relations. 

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